Hermit Playing the Qin

Wang Zhen Chinese

Not on view

The year 1919 was an important one in the political fate of the new Chinese Republic. The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I transferred all former German possessions in China to Japan, rather than satisfy Chinese demands for sovereignty and the nullification of foreign privileges in China. On May 4, 1919, students led protest riots in Peking against this blow to Chinese national pride. By June, the focus of protest had moved to Shanghai, where Wang Zhen lived. The May Fourth Movement led to a democratization of Chinese culture, particularly in the use of the vernacular language in literature. New ideas, including socialism, communism, anarchism, pragmatism and women's liberation flashed among the urban populations.

In this climate of political and cultural change, Wang Zhen's painting of the spring of 1920 is particularly poignant. It is a painting of reclusion. The robe-clad figure faces away, lost in contemplation of mists and a "waterfall that splashes like pearls." The image of a paradise, whether a Buddhist Pure Land or the Peach Blossom Spring of China's literary history, appears in several paintings on view in this exhibition. Wang Zhen's own Buddhist beliefs led him to raise money for victims of a major earthquake in Japan at a time when anti-Japanese sentiment in China ran high.

Hermit Playing the Qin, Wang Zhen (Chinese, 1867–1938), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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